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NECA Innovation Institute Success Stories

Jan 17, 2023

WASHINGTON, DC- Continuing to evolve the electrical construction industry, the NECA Innovation Institute (NII) offers NECA members a state-of-the-art opportunity to grow their companies by developing visionary thinkers. NII has already completed two yearlong programs where industry leading strategic problem-solving experts have coached future executives and emerging leaders in the industry. With the goal of building candidates into forward-thinking pioneers, each Institute candidate is nominated by an Executive Sponsor of their company. The two cohorts that have already completed the NII have produced 20 graduates who represent a diverse group of roles, regions, size, and specialty services provided by each contractor.

“This program was beneficial to both my personal and professional growth.  NECA assembled people from around the country to learn about and discuss issues that affect our industry,” said Phil Matthews, project manager at O’Connell Electric Company. “This allowed for sometimes differing opinions but more importantly a collaborative conversation on how to deal with common problems that we all face. I have already recommended to our leadership that we send someone else from O’Connell Electric to the Innovation Institute.”

According to program graduate Kyle Witte who is construction project executive at Lemberg Electric in Wisconsin, “The NII encouraged me to move out of my comfort zone and embrace looking at our industry differently.  I have essentially been doing the same job for many years at the same company. We are given the opportunity to collaborate with peers from around the country, all with different backgrounds, experiences, and knowledge.”

NECA’s first two cohorts, the Edison and Clarke Cohorts, successfully ran through 2021 and 2022 with each candidate engaging in company-specific Capstone Projects, peer mentorship, and learning about new problem-solving techniques to elevate themselves and their companies. The program is designed to go beyond meaningful seminars and lectures to actually help apply innovation in practice to companies as it stands today.

When describing his experience throughout the program, Witte said, “While we may be different, we all work within the NECA community, and therefore run into the same problems and challenges. Inevitably someone had a solution from what their company was doing in those instances. If someone is looking to grow their career and challenge themselves professionally, while helping their company as well (via the Capstone Project) then the NII is the program to enter.”

In the NII, there are four in-person events during the year with two meetings at nationally renowned innovation centers. Other than the initial in-person introduction in Washington DC, the first physical meeting is scheduled four months into the program and the second is at eight months. Virtual group meetings occur regularly and the weeks in between are utilized for one-on-one coaching.

“To me the innovation institute was a huge eye opener to the challenges we all face in the industry. Hearing from the others enriched me a lot because it gave me a national vision of the industry and how others are trying to tackle them. The visits to the manufacturers were another high point,” shared Jeffry A. Fuentes, executive vice president of Aurora Electric Inc. in New York. Clarke Cohort graduate and director of field operations for Continental Electrical Construction Company, Brian Swiatek said, “Getting together in person quarterly to review progress and to touch base with fellow members took some pressure off knowing where you stood with progress and how they stood. The exposure that the program gave/will give our company is always a plus.”

Former program participants acknowledge the improvement in their innovative aptitude and visionary thought process and found the networking opportunity equally beneficial. “The knowledge, resources and relationships that were formed throughout my time in the Edison Cohort I am forever grateful for. I now have resources spread throughout the country I can ask questions and bounce ideas off,” said Electrical Service Director Nick Rol at Thompson Electric in Sioux City. In Missouri, Dennis Harter, vice president of operations at Kaiser Electric shared, “For me, the network of humble professionals and experts is the benefit.  Lasting relationships with emerging leaders that I can look to for insight, expertise, and support.  NECA did a fantastic job of fostering the open communication and professional development. Future candidates should be prepared to be challenged. Be open to receive constructive feedback, and learning.”

NECA is currently recruiting for two cohorts in 2023, one that will start in April and one that will start in August.  Spots are filled on a rolling basis based on the review of applicants and with the goal of creating strong communities that will empower each other to overdrive innovation while building life-long connections. 

To learn more about NECA’s Innovation Institute, email the Institute at [email protected] or fill out this Interest Form online.